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Locally trained crisis response dog on site at deadly fire to help ease stress

Updated: Apr. 16, 2020 at 2:00 PM EDT
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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - One person was killed in a house fire in Boiling Spring Lakes earlier this week. The house was engulfed in flames in a matter of minutes, and there was little firefighters could do.

The call came in around 4 a.m., and before all was said and done, crews from Boiling Spring Lakes, Southport and Sunny Point, were all on scene. Three people were inside at the time the fire started. Two were able to escape with minor injuries, but the third lost their life.

“We were told three had to bust a window to get out," said Assistant Chief Nathan McConnell. “But when there turned around, one person wasn’t there.”

“It was very stressful there, to help gather and take that body out," said firefighter Brad Blumeshine. “It was a hard day. I’m glad Ember’s here.”

Ember isn’t the department’s mascot, but a crisis response dog provided by paws4people, an area non-profit that trains dogs and places them around the country.

There are currently 100 dogs going through a two year certification program.

“Ember went straight up to one of the gentlemen who was crying," McConnell explained. “He was able to pet her, bring his stress level, and maybe his blood pressure, down. And then she licked away his tears.”

According to paws4people’s website:

The title of “man’s best friend” takes on a whole new meaning at paws4people. From physical rehabilitative regiments, to emotional healing and support, we specially train dogs to keep their humans moving in a positive direction. After all, rediscovering your independence is much more satisfying with a friend by your side.

It’s not exactly common knowledge that assistance dogs can help with a number of conditions and circumstances, but over the last two decades, we’ve successfully taught our clients to navigate physical, emotional, neurological and psychiatric disabilities with a canine companion.

McConnell says Ember has been a member of the Boiling Spring Volunteer Fire Department for over three years. The sheriff’s office also has a service dog and one’s been placed with the juvenile justice department.

“We’re glad she’s a member of team," McConnell said. “We started training at three days old up until 18 months, when she received her full certification. We’re truly here to make a difference."

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